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Quantum Sensors Group

The Quantum Sensors Group, part of NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory, and the Quantum Electromagnetics Division, advances the detection of photons and particles in a variety of application areas using superconducting sensors and readout electronics.

The Quantum Sensors Group develops advanced photon and particle sensors to measure energy and power more precisely than traditional technologies.  The sensors make use of (1) quantum effects, especially superconductivity, to provide high responsivity and (2) ultra-low temperatures to suppress noise.  Signals of interest span the electromagnetic spectrum from millimeter-waves produced in the earliest moments of the universe to gamma-rays produced by nuclear fuel.

The Quantum Sensors Group applies advanced sensors to challenging measurement problems in a wide range of fields.  The work often involves collaboration with companies and research institutes outside of NIST.  Devices fabricated by the Quantum Sensors Group have been used in places that include outer space, the South Pole, the Atacama Plateau, the summit of Mauna Kea, nuclear laboratories, quantum computers, particle accelerators and synchrotrons.

The Quantum Sensors Group has existed in various forms since its creation in the early 1990s.  Over this span of time, the Group has grown to more than 40 scientists, technicians, engineers, and students.  Members of the Group have done pioneering research on topics that include superconducting transition-edge sensors, SQUID multiplexing, parametric amplifiers, microwave kinetic inductance detectors, and several types of advanced refrigerators.  

The Quantum Sensors Group is presently divided into 4 sub-units:

Major activities of the Quantum Sensors Group include:

  • superconducting x-ray and gamma-ray spectrometers for applications that include materials analysis and nuclear materials accounting
  • superconducting microbolometers for applications that include understanding the early universe and concealed weapons detection
  • advanced cryogenics to aid the dissemination of quantum electronics
  • the determination of atomic and nuclear reference data to facilitate materials analysis
  • support of U.S. industries that develop or use cryogenics, quantum sensors, and quantum computing

Some current projects include the Athena x-ray satellite, Simons Observatory, and CMB-S4.

News and Updates

Projects and Programs


To process information from quantum circuits and systems, it is important to have amplifiers with wide bandwidth, high dynamic range, and extremely low noise

Boulder Cryogenic Quantum Testbed

The Boulder Cryogenic Quantum Testbed (BCQT) Project implements, develops and openly disseminates standard protocols to reproducibly measure the performance


Low temperatures suppress noise and make quantum phenomena accessible. As a result, cryogenics play a crucial role in precision measurements.


The application of modern micro- and nanofabrication techniques to superconducting and cryogenic electronics is enabling new capabilities and applications.

Quantum Calorimeters

Superconducting devices at very low temperatures can be used to measure very small amounts of energy. Using this effect, the Quantum Sensors Group is building

Quantum Electronics

The Quantum Electronics project leverages the sensitivity of superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs), low-noise superconducting parametric


A tabletop x-ray tomography instrument for nanometer-scale imaging: demonstration of the 1,000-element transition-edge sensor subarray

Paul Szypryt, Nathan J. Nakamura, Dan Becker, Douglas Bennett, Amber L. Dagel, W.Bertrand (Randy) Doriese, Joseph Fowler, Johnathon Gard, J. Zachariah Harris, Gene C. Hilton, Jozsef Imrek, Edward S. Jimenez, Kurt W. Larson, Zachary H. Levine, John Mates, Daniel McArthur, Luis Miaja Avila, Kelsey Morgan, Galen O'Neil, Nathan Ortiz, Christine G. Pappas, Dan Schmidt, Kyle R. Thompson, Joel Ullom, Leila R. Vale, Michael Vissers, Christopher Walker, Joel Weber, Abigail Wessels, Jason W. Wheeler, Daniel Swetz
We report on the 1,000-element transition-edge sensor (TES) x-ray spectrometer implementation of the TOMographic Circuit Analysis Tool (TOMCAT). TOMCAT combines

Proof-of-Principle Experiment for Testing Strong-Field Quantum Electrodynamics with Exotic Atoms: High Precision X-Ray Spectroscopy of Muonic Neon

Douglas Bennett, W.Bertrand (Randy) Doriese, Malcolm Durkin, Joseph Fowler, Johnathon Gard, Gene C. Hilton, Kelsey Morgan, Galen O'Neil, Carl D. Reintsema, Dan Schmidt, Daniel Swetz, Joel Ullom, Takuma Okumura
To test the bound-state quantum electrodynamics (BSQED), we have performed high precision x- ray spectroscopy of the 5g→4f and 5f→4d transitions (BSQED



Group Leader